Westwater Canyon White Water River Rafting

If you haven't even been to Utah, then you are already missing out on some of the best scenery in the west.  But if you haven't been down and around the Colorado River then you are really missing out. It is some of the most beautiful desert canyon country in the world.  There are several sections that you can go rafting on.  Some are very calm, others not so calm.  Westwater Canyon has been named as one of the best 1 day white water river rafting trips in the country.  Depending on the time of year, you can expect to see Class III-V rapids, but most usually only see III-IV.

I am first going to say, my pictures don't even begin to do any of it justice.  I used a waterproof camera, just one of those you buy at a grocery store.  Apparently while I was taking water got on the lens, and well lets just say, the picture's did not turn out well.  I'm a little disappointed in them, but wanted to apologize right off for the quality of them.

** Also if you are looking for the picture's during the bigger rapid sections, you aren't going to see any.  Obviously for mine and others safety I couldn't have my camera out during those moments.

Normally the rapids when at their best are at about 13,000 cubic feet per second.  A great analogy is imagine 13,000 basketballs passing you each second and that is how much water is rushing past you.
When I went a week ago, because the water levels are super high due to all the mountain melt off, and the rain we have been getting.  The water was running at 28,000 cubic feet per second.

So yes, lots more water and much faster water.
There is good and bad about this.  Bad because a lot of the really great rapids are a bit washed out because of the higher waters.  Also, depending on how you look at it, bad because it's a bit more dangerous than normal.

A week before I went, I heard about a couple of guys who died in a section in it.  This should have detoured me, but it didn't.  
The night before I went, I was picking up some ice at the local grocery and two search and rescue were talking that they had lost a couple more on the river that day, they ended up being rescued and were okay, but they were saying the water was just too dangerous and not sure why people want to go down it right now.
Again this should have detoured me, but it only excited me.  I was really expecting a lot of crazy awesome rapids, and a little danger to pick the adrenaline up a notch.

We met at 7am in Moab, UT and then took about a 1 1/2 hour bus ride up the road along the Colorado River, through some beautiful and desert country.  Saw some Antelope and a few other morning animals.  We learned a little bit more about the area on the drive.  I actually haven't been more than about 16 miles up the previously, so it was neat to see what it looked like beyond that.

We had instructions and because of the colder water temperatures we all had to wear wetsuits.  (If you go later in the year, you won't need a wetsuit.)

We had 3 rules that the guides gave us.
1. Stay in the boat.
2. Stay in the boat.
3. Get back in the boat.
They actually really prepared us for whatever might happen.  I was not really worried about it, too much.  The friend I brought with me, hadn't done anything like this before so I wondered how she would take it.  But figured as long as she held on she would be okay. I figured the same advice for myself:)

They assigned us front or back of raft, I don't mind a little more adventure or water in my face so I was fine that we were placed in the front of the raft.

The first section of Westwater is actually fairly calm.  The first few hours were just floating and having fun getting to know others on the raft.
My friend and I came together.  But we lucked out and had this awesome couple from Australia on the raft with us, as well as a couple from France in the back of the raft.
Seriously, I could have talked to the Aussie's all day, (well I guess I kinda did.) They were so fun, and very interesting to chat with.  
We also had a very informative guide who knew a lot about the area, so plenty of stories and learning experiences as we went.

I couldn't of asked for a better group!
We had a 2nd raft with us that day, I didn't get to know them quite as well but at lunch I learned the other raft was all from various places in Utah.  
I was really glad I was in the raft I was in, it's just fun to meet people from other countries and hear their perspective on things, especially adventurous well traveled people as we were lucky to be sitting next to!  I had a great time, they were a lot of fun!

The scenery early on was beautiful, really old rock much darker than the sandstone canyon's you see further down the river through the rest of Utah.  Even saw a few Blue Herrings.  The water was super muddy, more than normal.
It wasn't uncommon to see huge logs, and tree's floating down the river with the run off.  In fact I was actually shocked at how many huge logs and tree's were going down with us.

We stopped once and hiked out to a rock cabin type shelter that of all things a child made many years ago.  Then back in the boat.  A few hours in, then we stopped for lunch.
Because we paid for the guides, they even prepared lunch!

After lunch, we went over the instruction again because we were about to hit the rapids and the dangerous parts I had been hearing about.

They said our biggest worry were the "boils".  They are parts that kind of pop up out of nowhere and suck things down to the bottom and then spit them back up.
They can suck a raft down, so as per the instruction.  If we felt any portion of the raft being sucked down, it was going to be our job to throw ourselves to the other side so that it would hopefully pop the raft back up and avoid being sucked down.
These types of dangers are what had been making other rafts this season flip.

They gave instruction on what to do if we fell out of the raft, and worse case if we weren't able to get back into the raft.  I don't believe I was overly confident, I know there was danger.  But I actually felt pretty good about it all, I figured if something did happen because of my relaxed nature when danger is around, it might help me???

Truthfully, I think I only felt the raft start to get sucked maybe once.  Like I said we had an awesome guide, and he knew the river and what to watch for, so he avoided any major dangerous section.

Once the rapids started, it was a lot of fun.
I MUST come back when the water levels are lower, I could only imagine how much crazier they can get.

We had one section near Skull Rapid, that we went into the rapid a little wrong.
The side I was on, I was hit with water  the rapid was big enough it went up over us, and got pretty soaked.  I was getting pretty hammered in the face, it was awesome.   
We went into what is called an Eddy, things got crazy for a second.  The river shift and the rapids took one of the oars out of the guides hands.  
I was still getting hit with water, or with rapids in my face.  But the entire back end of the raft lifted up.
We were so close to flipping, in a very bad spot.
(The section they have lost a few people this year.)

But the guide worked his butt off, and got control, and got us out of the rapids okay.  He seriously worked up a serious sweat.  When we got out, even he was like "oh my gosh, that was the closest I have ever come to flipping it."
He was exhausted after, but we thanked him.

I'll admit, that was the most awesome part of the entire trip.  I could have done that 100 more times, but I am pretty sure the guide didn't want to have that happen again.  You could just see it on his face, how bad it was and almost was.

After we got through the rapids portion, it was just flat river running after that the rest of the way. Everyone in my raft took turns guiding us and paddling with the oars.
It was cool that everyone took a turn, like I said we had a fun group that day!

I kind of figured I was doing pretty good, as after a minute or so of starting and a little guidance, I was left pretty much on my own as the guide chatted it up with everyone.  I oared forever ( Okay like 10 min lol) but I was having fun so I didn't mind.  I kept thinking my arms were going to get tired.  But once I got the hang of it, I could have done it all day.

I should mention, although I am no expert with oars on a larger raft.  I have taken several people down a section of the Green River in Northern Utah, with smaller oars.  I also grew up rafting with my family, and since I was the oldest once my parents got comfortable with my skill, I would take them out many times.  Even though totally out of practice, I will admit I was glad the guide asked me after if I had done this before, because it made me feel like I haven't lost it yet:)  ha ha.

A couple of us even jumped out of the raft for a little play time.  The guide went first, and then myself and one of my new Aussie river friends.  She grabbed my hand and said, let's go together.  It actually felt pretty good.  I didn't mind that the river was sandy and muddy, it felt great to cool off a little and you definitely need to have a little fun and get in the river if you're on the a river trip!  The other Aussie also jumped in, but my friend and the couple from France wouldn't get in the water.
(If you go, you definitely need to get in the water on a river trip!!!)

I'm the one on the right in the all black shorts:)

Because the river was running so much faster than normal, we ended about an hour earlier than we would have a different time of year.  We got out at Cisco, and then took about an hour drive back to Moab, Utah.

It was a lot of fun, but the rapids weren't as crazy as I wanted them to be.  It's weird to say, the danger was higher, but the rapids were more washed out, but that was the case.
Either way, it was a great experience!  

I have been down different sections of the Colorado River before, but so far Westwater is my favorite!  I do have a dream to eventually make it down Cataract Canyon, I think that will be next:)  Maybe next year if I can save up enough for it!

Who would love Westwater?  Anyone who loves adventure and beautiful scenery and canyon country!  Who might not like it? Those who don't like to get wet, or those who shy from a little adventure!
Knowing now what I do, and the danger levels.  If I was going to recommend the best time to go, I'd probably say July-August.  The waters are warmer that time of year too.


* White water rafting is SOOO much better out west than it is in the eastern United states.  (Okay, so maybe I am prejudice:)  But the guides we had, people I have talked through, in past years have all agreed.  Our rapids and canyons out west are so much more extreme.  So if you want incredible and beautiful canyon white water rafting, come out west!  

Class I rapids are for anyone kids and even very old people won't have trouble.
Class II, easy rapids, small ripples but good for the whole family.
Class III, This is where you start getting the waves, usually found in narrower canyons, some maneuvering may be needed to get through them.
Class IV, usually longer rapids, much more treacherous and you need to be experienced or be with someone certified with skills to go through these.  There is also some danger to these and are usually for the adventurous.
Class V, These are extremely difficult and very violent rapids, should never be attempted without a guide or previous scouting or great white water skills.  These are for individuals who really don't mind danger and high adventure.

* Whether you enjoy adventure or just want a calm day on the river.  There are river tours for just about anyone.  If you haven't done this in your life, you definitely should!

*  It's much, much better than the pictures I showed you, I promise!! I know my pictures this time were borderline terrible, but what can you do when it's a cheap waterproof camera, right!

Have you been White Water River Rafting before?  Have you been down any sections of the Colorado River before?


  1. We went white water rafting in Colorado last summer. So much fun! Great photos as always

    1. awesome!!! There are a few places in Colorado, I would love to river raft they have some great rapids too I hear!

  2. The only water adventure i've ever had was being on aa jet ski in the ocean an I was scared to death and couldn't wait to get off..lol

    1. LOL, that would be fun! I've been on jet boats in the ocean, but not on a jet ski, maybe one day:)

  3. I've gone canoeing but never wwr. People can still tip canoes, but thankfully ours did not.

    1. Oh ya, I remember tipping many canoe's when I was a kid in a lake, LOL They are fun though!

  4. Wow, that sounds like a total adventure - sort of like an amusement park ride! I'm glad you were able to stay safe!

    I've never been whitewater rafting but it sounds super fun from your description. If I'm ever out west, I'll have to give it a try!

    1. It was pretty fun!
      I love river rafting, I have gone many times in my life, but not nearly enough!
      Oh, ya if you come out west, you definitely need to give it a try!!!

  5. No, I haven't been. My hubs got to go on a company bonding trip once and said it was pretty intense. It was too cold when we were in Colorado a few years ago. I want to go back out west and do this! Great pictures and great recap.

    1. Hope you do get a chance to come out west and try it again sometime, it really is a lot of fun!

  6. Yay! I was waiting for this post ever since you told us you went and it did not disappoint! I love the "I was getting hammered in the face with water, it was awesome" lol! I don't know how I would feel about the higher classes, maybe if I had a whole raft full of people like you and a guide haha. This was so exciting to even read about though! Loved it!:)

    1. Thanks Hailey!
      Oh ya, I can have fun doing just about anything, but doing stuff like this is right up my alley, I couldn't help but feel getting hammered with water in the face was awesome!
      You have some great rafting in your state too, if you ever make it up north around the Grand Canyon, I bet you'd love it and if you need a raft of fun people to fill it up, give me a call:)

  7. White Water Rafting is fun and can definitely be a rush especially the time when I went in WA. Looks and sounds like you had a great time!! The pics turned out great and pretty cool you all took turns with the oars!

    1. I think the guides just like the break from oaring, LOL
      But its fun, that allows everyone the opportunity to say they had the full experience:)

  8. Wow, this looks amazing! I have never been WWR but it's on my list of things to do. I am so in awe of all your adventures!

    1. Oh I do hope you get a chance to do it someday, its really fun! Come to Utah, we have the best rapids and views together, (prejudice I am).

  9. These photos are gorgeous...this looks like an amazing place to visit!!

    1. Thanks Karen, it really is a beautiful canyon to see!

  10. Wow, that sounds like fun, Kristy! I went rafting in the Deschutes River here in Oregon and had a blast. You're inspiring me to plan another rafting trip :)

    1. Oh I hear Oregon has some amazing canyons to river raft down too, I swear if I ever become independently wealthy I have a bucket list a mile or ten long:)

  11. Colorado is definitely on my adventure list now! I JUST added water rafting to my bucket list a few weeks ago. Glad to have found this post! :D I am a super paranoid person, however so those stories of people dying and all that flipping would have really discouraged and freaked me out. I really want to experience life and the world and nature doing things like this! Just have to get over my fear of things going wrong and hope that things go right!

  12. Oh if you go rafting, definitely do one out of Moab, Utah seriously some absolutely beautiful and stunning canyon country.
    The gal I went with on this trip was up for adventure but if I had told her about the deaths even she told me after she probably wouldn't have gone and was glad I spared the details until after the fun:)
    I have this philosophy, I could die in a car accident far more easily than I could doing anything adventurous. Seriously, it's far more risky to drive car than do these things. If you want to go river rafting just google the odds vs a car and I think you'll find they are definitely in your favor!
    But they have some very safe river rafting trips too, that are just as fun! I even used to guide people down the rivers on them, and it's totally safe!


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